When Big Ten Network analyst Jess Settles analyzed Maryland junior guard Aaron Wiggins’ film this past summer, Settles thought Wiggins was poised to take the next step in his career this season.
So far, Wiggins has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but much like many of his Terrapin teammates, he has struggled to develop consistency. So far this season, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound guard is averaging 12.8 points per game — second highest on the team behind junior guard Eric Ayala. He’s also second on the team in both rebounds (5.4) and assists (2.8).
After battling some inconsistency, Wiggins may be finding his groove. He’s scored at least 10 points in seven out of the last nine games, while leading the team in scoring in five of those nine contests.
“It’s very difficult when you have a couple stars like he played with last year and you’re playing a role,” Settles said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 2 before Maryland’s 61-60 win against Purdue. “It’s very difficult when those guys are gone and all of a sudden, you’re being targeted.”
During his first two years at Maryland, Wiggins wasn’t relied upon as much offensively, playing alongside the likes of Anthony Cowan Jr., Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando — though he was named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year for his work during the 2019-20 campaign. He averaged 10.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while playing 28.6 minutes per contest.
However, with those key players having moved into the professional ranks, Wiggins has developed into much more of a focal point in Maryland’s offense this year. Wiggins’ increased involvement in the offense also means that he’s risen toward the top of the list on opponents’ scouting reports.
“The notes written on [Wiggins] give him a lot of high praise — super athlete, can score, slasher, you’ve got to get back and find him in transition,” Settles said of Wiggins’ scouting report.
“He’s just not been able to take over games. I mean, he has great highlights,” Settles added. “It looks like he’s playing hard enough. It’s just different when you’re a marked man.”
Against No. 24 Purdue Feb. 2, Wiggins displayed that ability to take over a game in the second half of Maryland’s win. Maryland’s offense struggled as a collective unit in the opening 20 minutes against the Boilermakers, scoring just 24 points.
Starting the second half, the Terps, led by Wiggins, came out rejuvenated offensively. The junior scored 13 of Maryland’s first 18 second-half points, displaying his offensive versatility. Wiggins knocked down three triples and two jumpers, showing increased confidence and his ability to serve as Maryland’s No. 1 scoring option.
“Aaron is the true definition of a microwave,” senior guard Darryl Morsell said after the game. “I see it in practice, I see it in the summer all the time. If Aaron makes one shot, I promise you every single time he makes a shot I go to the entire team, ‘Find him.’ That next one is going up and it’s going in.”
Wiggins’ 13 second-half points helped lead Maryland to the comeback win against Purdue. After the victory against the Boilermakers, the Terps now have four victories against ranked opponents this season — the most impressive part of their resume. The Purdue win also marked Maryland’s first home conference win.
Earlier this season, Maryland defeated then-No. 6 Wisconsin, then-No. 12 Illinois and then-No. 17 Minnesota on the road. In three of Maryland’s four victories over ranked opponents this season, Wiggins has scored in double-digits, including Tuesday night where he led the team with 18 points.
Big Ten road atmospheres are typically some of the best in the country, but this season crowds haven’t played a factor due to COVID-19.
“At the end of the year, I think those Maryland wins, they’re fantastic,” Settles said of Maryland’s NCAA Tournament resume. “I don’t think it’s going to be anyone saying, ‘Well there wasn’t a crowd in there and it’s not the same as last year.'”
For more from Settles, listen to the full interview here:
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